When healthy, Oxford's Thomas has shown how it's done
by Brandon Miller
bmiller@annistonstar.com
Oct 08, 2013 | 2072 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Oxford's Racean Thomas awaits the snap in drills during practice Tuesday. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
Oxford's Racean Thomas awaits the snap in drills during practice Tuesday. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
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OXFORD – Oxford's Racean Thomas has always carried a bit of a superhero persona on the football field, but on Tuesday, it was a little more literal.

The senior spent the day dressed in full Batman costume for the school's homecoming week, creating quite a metaphor for his abilities on the gridiron. Recruiting services rank him as a five-star running back, but his abilities at that position only scratch the surface of what he has done for Oxford.

“He actually punts for us, kicks off for us. He can punt return, kick return," Oxford coach Ryan Herring said. "He’s obviously a running back. He’ll be at receiver sometimes."

Herring said Thomas even can help on defense.

“He helps the full team out by being out there," Herring added.

The hardest part for Thomas and Oxford is having him out there, healthy and able to do all of the things that help the Yellow Jackets, who are 4-2 heading into this week's home game against Grissom (0-6). When he has struggled with injury, Oxford has struggled, too.

Thomas, an Auburn commitment, suffered a mild concussion in the season-opening loss against Carrollton (Ga.). Then, the following week, he endured a minor ankle sprain midway through the second quarter in a loss to then-No. 2 Clay-Chalkville. He had 116 rushing yards at the time of the injury but was limited to 45 on 11 carries the rest of the game.

It took time for the 5-foot-11, 198-pound Thomas to rebound from the ankle injury, which continued to limit him. He said he didn't want to let his teammates down and sit on the sideline.

“I don’t want to leave these guys hanging and make them have four straight losses or something like that,” he said. “I know they need me. It’s just really all about effort and how much work you put into it. I was working out hard and if I hadn’t have been I could have been out longer.”

After Oxford picked up wins over Gadsden City and Huntsville with Thomas playing sparingly, he broke out against Florence in Week 5. Thomas finished the 26-20 win with 235 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

“Florence has one of the most athlete defenses in the state this year,” Herring said. “Three or four times, he made four or five guys miss, and those are good defenders. He was making guys that will be playing in college miss him, or Roc was running through them. I knew right then he was back.”

He followed up with 210 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns in a 49-7 win against Lee-Huntsville last week.

“It feels good to be back because when I wasn’t healthy and I’d try to go out there and play a few downs it just didn’t feel right,” Thomas said. “It didn’t feel good to not be able to give 100 percent of my efforts. It just feels good to give 100 percent for the team.”

Despite working through the two injuries, Thomas has compiled 786 rushing yards on 88 carries and 11 touchdowns.

And now that he appears fully healthy, those numbers should rise, especially after Thomas rushed for more than 1,500 yards the last two seasons.

Scout.com has Thomas rated at five stars and listed as the third-best running back in the county. Mark Murphy, owner of Inside the Auburn Tigers, Auburn’s Scout affiliate, said Thomas reminds him of a bigger Carnell Williams when Williams, a former Auburn and NFL player, was coming out of high school.

“He’s one of the best running back prospects to come out of the state in many years,” Thomas said. “I think he’ll play right away at Auburn. Running back is a position where if you have the talent you should be on the field right away.”

Before Thomas starts trying to help a new team reach success, he still has unfinished business to take care of at Oxford.

“I’m a competitive person and always like to win no matter what it is,” he said. “Playing chess, I don’t even know how to play chess, but I want to win. It just pushes you. If you lose it makes you feel like you could have done better and helped the team win. I try to not get that feeling.”

Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star

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